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Test Anxiety in Law School: Tips and Guidance for Success

Brittany L. Raposa

Many of us have test anxiety. We have studied hard and we know the material, but when we sit down on test day, we panic and our minds go blank. Let’s talk a little bit about test anxiety and how to combat it.

What’s Test Anxiety?

Most of us feel some nerves before a big test. However, test anxiety is more than just nerves, but instead it can feel debilitating. Test anxiety can result in an inability to focus due to racing thoughts or feelings of panic. Further, it can result in physical symptoms, such as sweaty palms, a racing heartbeat, or even a panic attack.

Law school is stressful, and you might not know you have test anxiety until you get to law school. Maybe it’s a midterm, or maybe it’s a final exam that you take that makes you realize you have it. Or, maybe you’re entering law school knowing test anxiety is something you struggle with. So, what are some ways we can best cope with or combat test anxiety?

What Can You Do?

Study and Prepare Thoroughly

Some of the anxiety about testing may decrease if you know that you walked into the exam completely prepared. If you come up with a rigid study plan ahead of time, and you go into the exam having prepared adequately, this will help you with your fears of the exam walking in.

Do Practice Questions Before Your Exam

Many law students study hard for their final exams, but they do not practice questions or take practice exams. This is a critical aspect of combating test anxiety, because you would have done a series of practice problems before sitting down and taking a final exam. In this way, you have already self-tested yourself a bunch, and sitting down to take the exam is just another test.

Rest and eat right

Our bodies need rest and nutrients in order to function. A lack of rest or nutrients actually kicks our anxiety up – and sometimes way up. In the nights leading up to your exams, you want to make sure you are eating right and getting plenty of rest. Give your body what it needs to perform on your exam days.

Talk to someone about your test anxiety

This is important. You want to have a support system. Whether it’s your family, your friends, a professional, or an administrator at your school, you want to have a support system to help you with your test anxiety. Further, if you are experiencing test anxiety, you should talk to your Dean of Students or similar professional to see if you should get testing accommodations. You not only want to make sure you have emotional support, but also that you have the academic support you need to succeed. Further, check out your school’s counseling center. Experts are working at your university and know how stressful exams are. Always remember to use your school’s counseling center as a resource to help you deal with the stress of law school and for exams.

Incorporate breathing techniques

When you are sitting in an exam and you feel anxiety creeping in, I suggest doing the “four-breaths technique.” You want to sit back in your seat, and breathe in and out four times. Breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. This will help get your breathing regulated and will decrease your anxiety in that moment. Although you may be worried that it will take up some of your test time – don’t worry about that. It’s going to be about 1 minute that is worth your time, so you get in a good headspace to actually take the test.

Anxiety and test anxiety can manifest itself in different ways for different people. An important thing to remember is to try to stay as positive as possible. Law school can be tremendously difficult, and anxiety is another stressor taking toll on your body. Remember to not only say healthy physically, but mentally, too.

Test anxiety is something you can absolutely deal with and overcome. Know that you’re not alone, and be sure to check back here for more helpful tips dealing with exams and taking exams!

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